Could London Have An American Team By 2011?

Over the last few years, American sports leagues have done quite a bit to establish a market around the world instead of just in the United States. In the NBA, David Stern has made no secret of his desire to have an NBA team in Europe, the NFL has played regular season games in London the last two seasons, and MLB has it’s World Baseball Classic while toying with the idea of starting a franchise in Mexico City.  The globalization of American sports leagues seems to be inevitable, but at the same time it’s always felt as though it was still a ways away. Well, apparently it may not be as far off as we think.

Tim Leiweke runs the entertainment company AEG, which is basically England’s answer to what Disney is in America: A company that was founded as an entertainment company that has branched into sports. In America Disney owns ESPN, and in London AEG owns sports franchises like the L.A. Galaxy and over 100 multi-purpose venues across the world. According to Leiweke, one of the major American sports leagues is going to have a team in London by 2011.

From THE OBSERVER:

Tim Leiweke, who runs AEG, the entertainment company who own LA Galaxy, the team Beckham plays for, said: ‘In the next two years, one of the leagues is going to put a team on different soil and it is going to be revolutionary… It’s going to happen. It’s not just about sport being global, it’s about leagues being global.’

Leiweke, 51, who describes London as ‘the greatest city on the face of the earth’, believes the only league outside the US that is ready for such a seismic shift is the Premier League, but that the Americans are more likely to ‘cross one of the ponds’ to Europe or Asia first. He said: ‘Baseball, [American] football, basketball, hockey… one of those leagues will do it and it’s going to change our lives forever.’

Of course, what Leiweke fails to mention is why he’s so sure this is going to happen so soon, and whether or not he has any evidence of it. I mean, I can tell people that the NFL is going to give me my very own team in the next few years as well, and it doesn’t make it true.

Personally, I just don’t see how any of the major sports leagues here can just put one franchise in Europe or Asia. Just for the sake of argument, let’s say the NBA puts a team in London for the 2011 season. How would the league handle scheduling for both the London franchise and the American ones that have to play them? It would be easy to handle London’s schedule as you could just have them play home games for two weeks, then have them fly here for a two-week road trip, but what about the team’s going to London?

Would it really be fair to have the Lakers fly to London on a Monday night, play their game on Wednesday, and then have them fly back to New York for a game against the Knicks on Friday? For Christ’s sake, in the NFL the Jets can’t even beat the 49ers after flying across country, and we’re supposed to expect the Lakers to beat the Knicks after two trips across the ocean in a matter of days?

It just doesn’t make sense to me.